With a cast that includes James Franco, Danny McBride and Natalie Portman, Your Highness should be a better movie. The skewed fantasy inserts marijuana and sex jokes into the familiar tale of a chivalrous knight looking for a princess in danger. Adding filth to Old-World lore has been done well before, but here the concept wears thin when stretched to feature length, leaving the film unable to find its comedic footing. I suspect the A-list cast had a great time making Your Highness, but I did not have much fun watching it.
Brothers Fabious (Franco) and Thadeous (McBride) could not be less alike. Fabious is valiant, handsome and skilled in combat. Thadeous is lazy, sarcastic and has never been on a knightly quest. When Fabious' new bride Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel) is stolen by evil wizard Leezar (Justin Theroux), their father, King Tallious (Charles Dance), sends both to reclaim her. You probably remember this movie, it's called The Princess Bride, and it came out in 1987. Let's call Your Highness an homage to that film. After all, who doesn't love The Princess Bride?
Where Your Highness breaks away from its fantastical predecessor is at the point, roughly three minutes into the movie, when it commits to being less about plot than a showcase of dick jokes and profanity. Director David Gordon Green, best known for Pineapple Express, brings the same hash humor to Your Highness, but the whole ordeal feels tiresome this time around. I'll admit that the genre Your Highness lampoons is not my favorite, but we've seen all this Ye Olde Bullshit before, and Your Highness is content to show up for dinner empty-handed.
The humor in Your Highness is juvenile, but I did laugh once or twice thanks to the talented cast. McBride may as well be playing an ancestor of Kenny Powers, because he delivers his jokes in much the same manner as his Eastbound & Down character. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, because Kenny Powers is a funny guy. Natalie Portman, who plays Isabel, a warrior intent on avenging the death of her family, is the best thing about the film. Isabel is sassy, a brutal fighter, and, because it's Portman, smoking hot. Franco is surprisingly unimpressive here. Fabious is given few good lines, and Franco mostly shoots intense looks at Isabel. Franco was fairly busy in 2010, so I'll give him a pass on this one.
I think what happened here is this: A group of talented actors and a promising director assumed they could translate the fun they have outside a movie set into a rollicking adventure comedy. Next time, I'd advise they work a little harder on the script, which, if it exists at all, is probably no more than a sparse outline. Your Highness just isn't very funny. In fact, the film is often downright boring. And for this type of project, that's the worst sin of all.
Universal's 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer for Your Highness looks as good as you would expect for a new release. The film's cinematography is accomplished and its sets excellent, and the transfer supports this with solid detail and texture. Colors are bold and skin tones natural, and I noticed no aliasing problems. A bit of noise does pop up here and there, and, while blacks are usually solid, there is a bit of crush in nighttime scenes.
The film's 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack is also strong. There is a surprising amount of action in Your Highness, and, as such, the audio track is quite boisterous. Directional effects make heavy use of the surrounds, and the LFE awakens nicely during a chariot chase. Dialogue is clean and crisp, and the film's orchestral score never overpowers the proceedings. French 5.1, DVS and English 2.0 tracks are also available, as are English SDH, Spanish and French subtitles.
Universal provides a nice set of extras for the standard-definition release of Your Highness, which is presented in both unrated (1:45:17) and theatrical (1:42:20) versions on the DVD. I didn't see the film in theaters, so I cannot tell you what is different, but nothing in the unrated version would jeopardize an R rating. The best extra is Damn the Gods: The Making of Your Highness (approx. 30 minutes), a nice making-of that includes lots of fly-on-the-wall footage and interviews. Also included are alternate scenes (2:09), deleted scenes (8:20) and a gag reel (5:15). Feature commentary from David Gordon Green, Danny McBride, James Franco and Justin Theroux is also available. The participants discuss the films that inspired Your Highness, ideas that were cut from the script and all the fun they had making such a mediocre film.
Your Highness was basically DOA when released this spring, and for good reason. This crude update of the familiar knight's tale is not particularly funny, despite James Franco, Danny McBride and Natalie Portman on board. Weed and dick jokes are the extent of the film's wit, and Your Highness brings nothing especially interesting to the table. Universal's DVD features solid picture and sound and some nice bonus features, but the film is a dud. At most, Rent It.